A UN agency has warned that the world is heading for a disastrous ‘climate catastrophe’, with nations ‘terribly’ far from meeting their targets to reduce global warming.
According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report, there is a huge gap between the level of action countries are taking to address climate change and what is needed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that without urgent action, the climate is expected to rise 2.8°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, leading to “levels of global warming destructive to the economy”.
The time has come for a fundamental change in the way people live because “only a profound transformation of our economies and societies can prevent us from accelerating climate catastrophe”, said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen .
The UNEP report says this would require rapid changes in electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings, as well as the preservation of natural landscapes, changes in food and agriculture and the elimination carbon from food supply chains.
Between $4,000,000 and $6,000,000 per year of investment will be needed to fund the transformation and the entire financial system must be reformed to accommodate this, according to the report.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement established in 2015, countries have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that global warming can be kept below 1.5C-2C.
The agreement set out clear plans for how countries could achieve the goal, but many have yet to implement them, according to the report.
Floods, storms, heatwaves and wildfires have already ravaged the world as the impact of climate change takes hold – with temperatures currently up 1.26C above pre-industrial levels.
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The future is likely to see further devastation as weather patterns become more extreme, leading to destruction of crops and habitat and ultimately species extinction, if global warming is not limited to 2C.
Annual emissions must be reduced by 45% over the next eight years if the 1.5°C target is to be met, the UNEP report says.
The UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year was another opportunity for world leaders to meet and discuss how to achieve the 1.5°C target.
Yet climate plans submitted since the conference foresee reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 0.5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, or less than 1% of the 58 billion tonnes which should be issued annually by then, the report says.
So far, greenhouse gas reduction plans submitted by countries around the world will mean the world is well below its target.
The UNEP paper says pledges resulting in a further reduction of 20-23 billion tonnes per year by 2030 will be needed to meet the 1.5°C target.
Even to stay within the 2C range, pledges resulting in 12-15 billion tonnes less annually released into the atmosphere by 2030 will be needed, the report adds, before the next COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. .
Ms Andersen said: “This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we need to stop filling our atmosphere with gases to greenhouse effect and stop doing it quickly.
“We had our chance to make incremental changes, but those times are over. Only a profound transformation of our economies and societies can stop us from accelerating climate catastrophe.”
“It’s an ambitious, and some would say impossible, order to reform the global economy and nearly halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but we have to try,” she said. added.